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Analysts: Hamas-Fatah Split ‘Elephant in the Room’ for Israel Peace Talks

October 4, 2013 2:54 pm 8 comments

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat. Photo: State Department.

As the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority resume, analysts are beginning to look further into the dynamic of Fatah, which rules the West Bank, and Hamas, in Gaza, and how their lack of co-operation is a fatal flaw for peace in Israel.

Journalist Elhanan Miller, in this month’s issue of The Tower, argues, in an article entitled “Elephant in the Room,” that the current round of peace talks is misguided and shows that the U.S. is “oblivious” to the realities on the ground in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Miller says that Western officials “are still romancing the peace process between Israel and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, shepherding Israeli and Palestinian officials through negotiations, and pushing economic and political incentives for the two sides to reach an agreement as if Hamas’ intransigence doesn’t exist.”

His refers primarily to the split over very basic issues of ideology. Fatah is secular and willing to recognize Israel–if not as a Jewish state, at least as a sovereign one. Hamas, in contrast, is an Islamic offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and refuses to recognize the Jewish state in any form.

“The truth is that, so long as the Hamas regime continues to rule Gaza, there is virtually no chance of a viable and comprehensive final-status agreement, at least anything that extends past the West Bank,” Miller writes. “Western leaders’ indifference to this fact and its origins is not only a grave mistake, but a distraction from an outcome that might actually bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Asaf Romirowsky, an adjunct scholar at the Foundation for Defense for Democracies and the Middle East Forum, agreed with the broad strokes of Miller’s assessment, but said cultural differences, as well as differences between the two political forces, are the root of the problem.

“There’s definitely a misperception among U.S. officials that Palestinian society is a cohesive society. It’s, in fact, a very fragmented society today,” he told The Algemeiner. “For one, you have very different cultures in Gaza and the West Bank; they are two different peoples.”

Then there’s the matter of Hamas having no incentive to change, which Romirowsky argues is a major roadblock to peace.

“While the Palestinian Authority is relatively moderate, Hamas has no intention of recognizing Israel. Look at the Gilad Shalit case: they were able to gain some legitimacy and diplomatic leverage through terror. They say ‘We have popular support’ in Gaza and a strong foothold in the West Bank and it’s true. So a peace that involves a Palestinian state that consists of both the West Bank and Gaza just isn’t feasible considering the Hamas agenda. I agree with Netanyahu: mutual recognition has to be a core issue of any peace deal, and Hamas simply won’t do that.”

Miller asks, rhetorically, “Why, then, are world leaders so wary of addressing the problem? The reasons appear to be both psychological and political.”

“Psychologically, acknowledging the Palestinian rift as a significant—perhaps the most significant—obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians would involve jettisoning one of the foundations of the Oslo Accords, which recognized Gaza and the West Bank as integral parts of the same political entity. In effect, this would redefine the entire peace process by changing the debate from what the two sides can do to what the Palestinian side essentially is. In many ways, it would amount to admitting that a single, unified Palestinian state cannot be established in the near future. Politically, of course, this would undermine the rationale behind holding peace talks in the first place.”

Miller argues that this approach is a “risky one.” In particular, he says, “it makes the international community seem completely detached from political reality in the eyes of both the Israeli and Palestinian people who will ultimately have final approval over any eventual peace agreement.”

Romirowsky says that the Israelis he is in contact with tell him the very same thing: “The Israeli perspective is that the U.S. doesn’t get it, that the Palestinian issue pales in comparison to the threat of a nuclear Iran.”

“It’s a diplomatic dog and pony show,” Romirowsky says. “Obama’s foreign policy agenda has revolved around the Israeli-Palestinian issue being the issue central to all the problems in the Middle East. While the Arab Spring or Islamist Winter, whatever you want to call it, has proven that’s not the case, it’s a lot easier for Obama to remain engaged in the region with an ally like Israel.”

“Hamas eventually would need to be removed for there to be a Palestinian state that consists of both the West Bank and Gaza. But I’m not naive; they have a foothold in Palestinian society and no incentive to change their ways,” he said.

Romirowsky doesn’t believe that the toppling of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt–which ushered in a less accommodating military leadership–or the redirection of resources by Iran to Syria will cripple Hamas considerably.

“They’ll get less money and will have to work harder to sell their agenda, but will they change their tune? No,” he says.

Miller concludes: “So long as the international community continues to ignore the reality of the split between Hamas and Fatah, peace between Israel and the Palestinians is likely to remain elusive.”


  • It’s not as though there is unity within Fatah, let alone between Fatah and Hamas. Khaled Abu Toameh has written regularly about the gulve between members and Abbas and his old guard cohort.

    And then of course, there’s what Abbas will say in English for western audiences and what he says in Arabic to the folks back home.

  • Israel will never take Palestine forever ,being the history is not a civilization, and the rights of the Jewish to live and take Palestine by gift of god is also not true .the God creating people with equal rights and God as a creator love all his creations without discremination .othenrwise he became not fair w hitch is not true . But some creation deny and hate and dislike them self. So this is unusual and strange as some damage happened in thier genataics and effect to thier thoughts and minds .God is the lord and above all of his creation and Jew will never never are distinguished od. Supper we will wait and see what will happened in the future. If ?God want to punish some nation he will guid them to do wrong things . Palestin will return back to balestinian

  • Wallace Edward Brand

    The Jewish People have sovereignty in Palestine from the river to the sea even though the Government of Israel has failed to assert sovereignty over Judea and Samaria. The competing claims of the Jewish and Arab peoples made at the Paris Peace Talks in 1919, were decided on when the Principal Allied War Powers reconvened in San Remo in April, 1920. The decided to recognize the Jewish People as owners of those political rights based on their historic association with Palestine, some 3,700 years of continuous, uninterrupted presence. The decision was made by adopting the British Balfour policy word for word, implicitly denying any Arab political rights, whose civil and religious rights were required to be respected when the Jews exercised sovereignty. According to Lord Curzon, the Arab political rights were implicity denied. Jewish sovereignty was delayed by putting the political rights in trust. They were to vest when the Jews attained a majority population in the area they governed and were capable of exercising sovereignty. In 1950, after the British abdicated their trusteeship, the Jews met the standards within the Green Line. Jordan and Egypt had invaded the mandated area in 1948 but did not acquire sovereignty. In 1967 the Jewish People drove out the illegal occupiers and attained sovereignty over all of Palestine west of the Jordan River.
    Under natural law, a people or nation have the right of self determination. Since WWII this has evolved into a right under International Law but it is limited when there is a tension with the right of territorial integrity. Currently, International Law supports only decolonization which does not impair territorial integrity by requiring a change in state boundaries. As a part of its effort to dominate the Middle East using exploitation of Arab hatred of the Balfour Declaration, the Palestine Mandate and the existence of Israel, the Soviet Union has been pushing legislation to promote the right of self-determination of “peoples” at the UN and its KGB dezinformatsiya invented the Palestinian People in 1964 when the preamble of the PLO Charter was drafted in Moscow. Nonetheless, territorial integrity is still given priority over the right of self-determination in International Law — however the left wing intellectual elite are promoting change in this view.

  • Sonia Willats

    Even Fatah has not embraced the concept of peace with the Jewish state – they are just talking to see what they can gain, politically and in terms of land – and how many prisoners they can have freed, which lifts their cudos.


    The American regime doubtless knows this; yet continues to mis-lead Israel with the futile promise of help against Iran. Why, when they are also playing games Iranian peace – they cannot fail to know that this also is just a game from the Iranian side.

    So the Western world lies down with a whimper and allows Islamic extremism to take over. WHY? Even the Western media knows better; yet tries to depict Israel as war-mongering by exaggerating the Iranian threat. Why?

  • Obama’s Middle East politics was already belly-up upon his inauguration: His first act after nomination was to send an envoy to Nethanyahu with the intent of twisting his arm into making concession to Terror in the form of the PA. His second act, his Cairo speech and betraying Mubarac combined, has been proven to be a colossal personal stupidity. Moreover, it has been subjugating American and Free World interest to an ideological delusion assuming that such thing like moderate political Islam has to it even the slightest probability on not being an oxymoron.
    Ever since, everything in the Middle East keeps dropping on Obama’s head without the slightest crack of light in the bleak horizon. Twisting the arm of Amarica’s largest battle ship’s Captain into a Photo Opportunity of a peace treaty, which everybody knows is a no-go, is his last resort from being fingered as the first Naked King in American history. As for fighting Terror- What Terror???

  • A US President who bows to the Saudi King is not going to be accommodating to Israel….to say the least.

  • I keep saying the Arabs do not want peace with Israel. They are so full of venom and hatred and revenge, that there is not much chance of it happening. Maybe in one hundred years there might be. But I musn’t grumble ‘cos nobody listens!

  • there appears to be a plan in motion to depose hamas and give gaza to abbas. Egypt, tamarod, gcc, us, and perhaps even israel are involved.

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